April 29, 2012

Istanbul Tulip Festival

"Some images from the Istanbul Tulip Festival, which takes place every spring." David Schlenker

Taboo of Black Eyed Peas to DJ in Istanbul

There is no big secret to achieving success in the music business, except to make music that you enjoy performing, according to Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas, who is visiting Istanbul to play a DJ set at 360 Istanbul on April 27.

This will be Taboo’s second professional visit to Istanbul, the first having been with The Black Eyed Peas a few years ago. Taboo’s career with the band began when he met will.i.am and apl.de.ap at a club called Balistix in Los Angeles. “We shared a common interest in freestyle dancing, hip-hop culture and rhyming. I always knew in my heart that I would live my life pursuing a career in entertainment. But I never dreamed that The Black Eyed Peas would be as big as it has become. We were just passionate about music when we started,” Taboo said.

Taboo’s DJ project incorporates elements of dance, music, visuals and MCing. “I like to interact with the crowd. We have video sequences. It’s a little different at every show. I want people to have a good time and walk away feeling like they have experienced something different, something new.”

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Taboo of Black Eyed Peas to DJ in Istanbul

Exploring Istanbul in Novels

The cultural arm of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Culture, Inc., has published another work as part of its ongoing efforts to promote the city of Istanbul.

The next work “Türk Romanından Bir Demet Istanbul” (A Selection of Istanbul from the Turkish Novel) pulls together unforgettable descriptions of Istanbul from 25 19th- and 20th-century Turkish novelists. In the preface of the book, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş expresses hope that readers will find themselves able to imagine what Istanbul was once like with the selected writings. The book aims to awaken the spirit of those historical times in the mind of the reader and conceptualize human relations once again.

The selection of works to include was carried out with the advice of Professor Dr. İskender Pala under the editorship of poet and writer Ekrem Kaftan.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Exploring Istanbul in Novels

From Amsterdam to Istanbul, Art and Diplomacy

Turkey and the Netherlands are celebrating 400 years of diplomatic ties with a yearlong series of events, including an exhibition that draws parallels between the Dutch of the 17th century and the Turks of today.

“Where Darkness Meets Light — Rembrandt and his Contemporaries: The Golden Age of Dutch Art” at the Sakip Sabanci Museum features masterpieces lent by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and anonymous U.S. donors.

Now the Dutch are grappling with the euro zone crisis and immigration issues, but during the 1600s, the Netherlands’ booming economy gave rise to an expanded middle class whose merchants could finally afford to buy and commission works of art, an activity once the realm of nobility and religious leaders.

With a fleet of ships bringing porcelain from China, tobacco from the Americas and silks from the Ottoman Empire, the Dutch middle class developed a taste for luxury goods, much as the newly wealthy in Turkey seek the latest in cars, clothes and technology. Art galleries are proliferating in Istanbul as investor interest mushrooms.

Pieter Roelofs, curator of 17th-century Dutch painting at the Rijksmuseum and the curator of the Sabanci exhibition, sees parallels with Amsterdam and Istanbul, a city reveling in its own Golden Age. 

Read more on The New York Times: From Amsterdam to Istanbul, Art and Diplomacy

Istanbul Jazz Festival Program Announced

The 19th Istanbul Jazz Festival will again bring the stars of jazz to Istanbul in July with 50 concerts and more than 300 local and international artists.

The festival will expand across the city this year with more than 20 different venues. While still including concerts at classic venues such as the Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Istanbul Modern, Salon İKSV and the Marmara Esma Sultan, as well as santralistanbul, one last year’s favorite venues, the Haliç Congress Center and Sabancı University’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum will be used as jazz festival venues for the first time.

The program for the 19th Istanbul Jazz Festival was announced at a press conference held at SALT Galata. Speaking at the conference, İKSV Chairman Bülent Eczacıbaşı said: “The festival in its 19th year has undertaken a mission that extends beyond hosting significant representatives of contemporary music from all over the world in Istanbul. The festival brings artists from different traditions and different countries together for concerts in which they will perform original music, and it also supports the improvement of young jazz musicians.” 

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Jazz Festival Program Announced

Istanbul: Hours of Turkish Bath House Bliss

I've always regretted that New Zealand has few, if any, public saunas or bathhouses that are not either meeting places for gay men or associated with gymnasiums. That's why one of the first things I wanted to do in Istanbul was discover the delights of the Turkish bath.

The opportunity came sooner than I thought. Our companion for a couple of days was an effervescent local called Ilginay, who had been deputised by the Tourist Ministry to take us under her wing for the day and, from the first moment, she had bath time in her sights. This was good for me because she impressed upon the owner of her favourite hamam - bath house - that he should waive the charge for her companions.

Read more on New Zealand Herald: Istanbul: Hours of Turkish Bath House Bliss

Celebrating Ordinary Life

Nobel prize-winning Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk realized a long-nurtured dream yesterday with the opening of an actual “Museum of Innocence”— a collection of relics of a half-century of ordinary life as depicted in his 2008 novel of the same name.

Pamuk set out “not to do a spectacular or monumental museum but something in the backstreets, something that represents the daily lifeof the city,” he told a news conference after a press preview.

Situated in a bright, wine-red building in the district of Cukurcuma, the Museum of Innocence houses real and fabricated artifacts from everyday Turkish life between 1950 and 2000, in an homage both to the novel and to Pamuk’s Istanbul.

Read more on FMT: Celebrating Ordinary Life

April 22, 2012

Zombies Dance the Night Away in Istanbul

November 01,  2011 - More than 250 people in zombie costumes showed up last night in Ortaköy Square in Istanbul to commemorate the late famous pop singer Michael Jackson for a worldwide event called "Thrill the World."

It was 4 a.m. when the participants rocked away a dance set from Jackson's iconic Thriller video, fully in costume as well as in spirit. The event took place simultaneously around the world.

Participants not only enjoyed dancing till dawn, but also raised money for the post-quake efforts in Van.

This was Istanbul's third time joining the event.

Around the World in 52 Suburbs: Istanbul

Hoş geldiniz! Welcome to Istanbul. A sprawling metropolis of 13-plus million and the only city in the world to have one Turkish slippered foot in Europe and the other in Asia.

I’d been to Istanbul twice before. But only as a typical tourist, visiting the usual suspects in star-studded Sultanahmet – Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia. What was Istanbul like beyond the postcard cliches, I wondered? And so here we are in Istanbul, the third city in 52 Suburbs Around the World. Advertisement: Story continues below

For week one my daughter, Coco, and I headed up the Golden Horn to Balat – and snuck in neighbouring Fener while we were at it. Once upon a time these places thrived, filled with fine mansions and vibrant communities of Greeks and Jews. But the fairytale didn’t last and they’re both now struggling and run-down with many buildings derelict and empty. Yet if you squint hard you can imagine what Fener and Balat might have looked and felt like in their heyday. And despite the dilapidation, I still found so much beauty there, from the colourful bay-fronted houses to the impressive churches and mosques we had virtually to ourselves.

For week two in Istanbul we changed gear and ducked over the Golden Horn to Istanbul’s ‘it’ neighbourhood, Cihangir. This is where you can roll down the hill from a big night out in the entertainment district of Taksim and wake up in your European-style apartment to a ridiculously impressive view, stretching right over the Bosphorus, across to Sultanahmet and down to the Sea of Mamara and beyond. I heard the place is heaving with celebrities but as I wouldn’t know a Turkish celebrity if I fell over one, I can’t verify the rumour.

Visit Louise Hawson's photo gallery & read more on The Sydney Morning Herald: Around the World in 52 Suburbs: Istanbul

Istanbul Hosting Goya in Major New Show at Pera Museum

On Friday İstanbul started hosting yet another major exhibition when the Pera Museum unveiled its newest show, a selection of engravings and paintings by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, at its temporary exhibition hall.

Titled “Goya: Witness of His Time,” the Pera Museum show features a total of 230 pieces -- made up of oil paintings and four series of engravings -- by the artist, billed in the art world as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns.

The Pera exhibition is the first-ever major exhibition of works by Goya (1746-1828) in Turkey. Curated by Marisa Oropesa and scheduled to continue until July 29, the exhibition consists of works on loan from a number of leading museums and private collections in Spain and Italy.

A joint effort between the Spanish Embassy in Ankara and the Cervantes Institute İstanbul, the exhibition brings together works from the collections of Spain’s Bilbao Fine Arts Museum and Santamarca Foundation as well as a number of private collections in addition to a number of pieces from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Pera Museum officials told reporters during a press preview for the exhibition on Thursday.

Goya, having lived at the turn of the 19th century, is one of the best narrators of “darkness” and Oropesa’s selection features Goya’s works that bear witness to a turbulent period in Europe and particularly his native Spain.

Read more on Zaman: Istanbul Hosting Goya in Major New Show at Pera Museum

Donald Trump Opens $400 Million Istanbul Towers

Donald Trump, the U.S. real estate developer, opened a $400 million twin-tower complex in Istanbul and will partner Turkish owner and billionaire businessman Aydin Dogan in more real estate in the city.

Trump Towers Istanbul, two skyscrapers each about 150 meters (492 feet) tall in the central Mecidiyekoy district, include 204 apartments on sale for as much as $6 million and 43,000 square meters (463,000 square feet) of offices and stores.

“We have a great relationship with Dogan,” Trump said in an interview at the towers in Istanbul today. “We are going to invest in real estate with them in Istanbul within two years. It will be something like Istanbul Trump Towers.” About 75 percent of residences at Trump Towers have been sold at prices ranging from $600,000 to $6 million, Trump and Dogan told reporters at a news conference in Istanbul today. Dogan and his family also own Turkey’s biggest media group.

“This project has been a great success,” Trump said in the interview. “It has made Turkey one of our priorities for real estate investment.”

All of the larger residences have been sold off, Trump and Dogan said. The size of the apartments range from about 85 square meters to 680 square meters.

Trump also said he plans to invest in hotels in Turkey “as soon as possible”. Donald Trump is the Chairman and President of Trump Hotel Collection, which features boutique luxury hotels in the U.S., Canada and Panama.

Read more on Bloomberg: Donald Trump Opens $400 Million Istanbul Towers

Skyfall on Istanbul

I blame James Bond for my romantic vision of Istanbul. I got my first glimpse of the city from the edge of a seat in a dark Philadelphia theater on a Saturday afternoon in the early 1960s, watching Sean Connery save the world from the evils of Spectre in “From Russia with Love.”

I moved to the real Istanbul a few years later, and as a young teenager trooped down to the fabled Emek Cinema to follow on the screen behind a vast proscenium arch, under its gilted rococo ceiling, Bond’s perilous trip on the Orient Express. I was a young orientalist myself, and my own journey home along the Bosphorus seemed every bit as exciting as the Istanbul on the screen.

Today I am among the first to cheer James Bond’s return to town in his incarnation as Daniel Craig. Whole sections of the historic city have been turned into a film set for the new Bond epic, “Skyfall.” I’m happy to endure the inconvenience of police cordons and traffic gone haywire as long as the result is another glorious rendering of Istanbul, as idealized as in the prequel.

Read more on The New York Times: Skyfall on Istanbul

Linger in Overlooked Istanbul

Originally Constantinople, it was founded in AD330 by the Christian emperor Constantine as "the second Rome", the new centre of the Roman Empire. After 1000 years of Christian rule, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, in an epic siege. 

The Ottoman Empire, ruled by sultans, lasted until World War I, when it joined with Germany. Postwar, the empire, including the Balkans and stretching in the east to Syria, fell apart. 

Kemal Ataturk (father of the Turks) then led the country to a republic, with himself as first president. The capital moved from Constantinople (which became Istanbul), with its burdened past of political intrigue, to a new site in the Anatolian heartland at Ankara a distant parallel to the founding of Canberra. Ataturk was the Turkish hero of Gallipoli, whose healing words grace the memorial there to the Allied fallen. He modernised Turkey, turning it into a democracy. Religion and state were separated, though Islam remained the dominant religion, as today. 

Contemporary Istanbul, with a healthy gross domestic product and straddling East and West, is today a vibrant city, its lively restaurants, bars and galleries offset by its many historical sights. 

One's first stop should be the Sultans' palace of Topkapi, within walking distance of the Blue Mosque Square. Unlike any Western palace, it is a cluster of buildings set in parklands. The Imperial Council Chamber, or Divan, was used for ambassadorial receptions, while the sumptuous harem is a warren of apartments decorated in multicoloured tiles. It includes concubines' quarters and eunuchs' dormitories. The Treasury holds one of the world's greatest collections of precious jewels. The palace's huge kitchens fed hundreds. The grounds include a cafeteria and a restaurant, both overlooking the Marmara Sea. If it is tulip time, and Anzac Day usually coincides, this is a good place for photographs. 

A second drawcard is the great basilica of St Sophia, built by Justinian in the 6th century, site of the crowning of Christian emperors. It was sacked by the Ottomans but is maintained as a Turkish museum. One of the great buildings of the world, its dome was the largest until St Peter's was built in Rome. Approaching through its main door, one confronts a vast interior. The ornamentation consists not of side altars or paintings but is in the precious stones and marbles of floor and columns, many ransacked from Eastern temples. The surrounding upper gallery, itself spacious, is approached not by stairs but by a broad cobblestone ramp, up which horses were ridden. Like the gold leaf of the glowing mosaics (gold for eternity), the soaring space suggests the mystical dimension of Eastern Christianity. 

Blue Mosque Square has parks, fountains, museums and Turkish tea houses, many of them open-air. Turkish tea, a reddish-brown liquid (no milk), is served in tulip-shaped glasses, rimmed with gold. The enormous mosque, backed by blue sea, dominates the square. Its domes flow downwards like cascades. Don't miss visiting nearby the mosaics, excavated and restored, of the Great Roman Palace the rest lies buried beneath later buildings. 

Read more on Herald Sun: Linger in Overlooked Istanbul

Bond Filming Leaves Istanbul Merchants with Mixed Feelings

Merchants at the Grand Bazaar are left with mixed feelings after the shooting of several scenes for the upcoming James Bond movie “Skyfall” at the site, uncertain whether the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Shooting took place at various locations on the historical peninsula, including Eminönü and the 15th century Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). Producers paid 150 store owners in Eminönü between TL 1,000 and TL 3,000 and street traders about TL 200 per day, according to estimates on their average daily earnings provided by the Fatih Municipality in order to avoid any possible abuse on either side over the issue of payment. The producers also asked the owners of shops along a couple of streets of the Grand Bazaar to open their stores on Sunday, a day the bazaar is closed, for the shooting of certain scenes. There were 130 stores open that day, and each received payment of TL 350. Total payments to shopkeepers amounted to around TL 3 million.

Many shop owners at the bazaar were excited such a high-profile movie would be filmed at their place of work, expecting it to attract many more tourists to İstanbul and the bazaar in addition to providing short term employment to those who would take part in the production. A shop owner told Sundays Zaman on Thursday, “We are very glad the production of such movie is taking place here, introducing our culture to the world and bringing more visitors here.” Another said, “I would have come on Sunday to contribute to the production if it wasn’t the Easter holiday.”

However, some shop owners have criticized the decision to allow the production to be filmed place at such a prominent historical location for the possible damage it could cause and were also hesitant about how Turkey would be portrayed in the movie.

Read more on Zaman: Bond Filming Leaves Istanbul Merchants with Mixed Feelings

A Culinary Walk Through Istanbul

Sleet is falling and it's well below zero, but the guide for our culinary walking tour is waiting as arranged outside the Spice Market at Eminonou. 

People come to Istanbul for many reasons, such as the history and the art, but for me, this time anyway, it's all about the food. And what better way to make some new discoveries and tread some new back streets than under the guidance of an expert? 

Istanbul Eats' culinary walking tours are designed so you can experience an Istanbul that tourists rarely can, and we have been warned to come with empty stomachs. Its website also provides the most up-to-date information about dining in Istanbul, from street snacks to fine meals at top restaurants. 

Our lovely American guide, Megan, made the city her home many years ago and speaks the language well. Our small group of six sets off, not to the Spice Market as expected, but to the surrounding streets. 

Megan explains that, sadly, it is more a general bazaar now, rather than the glorious food market I remember from past visits. However, all around it we find a fascinating array of food stores, all specialising in something different. 

Read more on Stuff: A Culinary Walk Through Istanbul

A Historic Quarter of Istanbul Regains Its Place in the Sun

The transformation of Pera in the past 10 years has been extraordinary. When I first started coming to this side of Istanbul, just after the millennium, Pera was old, dirty and unnerving. There were streets off Istiklal Caddesi where, as a tourist, you did not walk. The bar in the Pera Palace Hotel was so dingy I'd swear it had not been painted since Agatha Christie holed up in a room with a rickety brass bedstead. 

Now Pera, the rocky quarter traditionally frequented by Europeans, is bright and buzzing. The International Pera Piano Festival begins on 7 May, followed three days later by the Istanbul Theatre Festival (10 May-5 June), which uses Pera and various neighbourhoods nearby. Then, at the end of May, the Istanbul Music Festival (31 May-29 June) kicks off with two of its venues in Pera and street musicians dotted along the newly affluent Istiklal Caddesi. 

How has this happened? 

April 15, 2012

Turkish Nobel Laureate Pamuk Opens 'Museum of Innocence'

Cataloguing Turkey’s history between 1950 and 2000 and paralleling a recent book by Turkey’s Nobel laureate, Istanbul’s Masumiyet Müzesi (Museum of Innocence) is set to open at the end of the month.

Award-winning author Orhan Pamuk designed the museum with artifacts inspired by Füsun, the lover of the protagonist Kemal in the novel of the same name.

The museum is situated in an old building in Çukurcuma that was made in 1897.

Pamuk said the museum, which was briefly opened to journalists for a tour on April 13, would draw plenty of visitors even if they had not read the book itself thanks to Füsun’s artifacts, which symbolize daily life in Istanbul during the second half of the 20th century and include small knickknacks, tickets and memorabilia from old movies of Istanbul.

The Nobel laureate said he had been contemplating the museum and the book for the past 15 years but added that the former also told a separate story.

The Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh at the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh (the Chrism Oil used in the Orthodox Church for the Sacrament of Confirmation) took place this Holy Week at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Phanar, with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presiding and the participation of approximately 55 Orthodox Hierarchs from around the world, including representatives from the Senior Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Autocephalous Churches of Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania and the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

It was an auspicious celebration that takes place approximately once every ten years, when the reserve of Holy Myrrh nears depletion. This was the third time Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has presided over the sanctification celebrations. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America traveled to Constantinople and participated in the events.

Holy Myrrh is sanctified to be used in the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Chrism (Confirmation), one of the Seven Sacraments. It is a visible means of the bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who are baptized. The Ecumenical Patriarchate distributes the Holy Myrrh to the Orthodox Churches throughout the world.